Some vehicles come with the kind of luxury features you expect from the brand. Just about every Cadillac Escalade is going to run your finances through the wringer and give you all sorts of nifty high-end tech and features for the trouble. A Mercedes or BMW aren’t going to go easy on your wallet, but you can expect to get what you pay for from both. What you probably don’t expect is to encounter various kinds of high-end luxury features from marques typically known for being economical. In fact, some older model cars (or relatively old) sport features you probably didn’t think they could have. If you had opted to buy a specific trim or model year used from an online car sales outlet hoping to cut down on costs, you can still come out on top when it comes to luxury by eyeing certain model years from specific brands.
1986 Buick Riviera – CRT Touchscreen
While everyone clamors for vehicles with luxury features like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto with touchscreen display support, imagine having a similar feature available as standard equipment way back in 1986? That is no fairy tale. General Motors stepped out ahead of the bunch with a Delco-developed CRT touchscreen that was made available for the Buick Riviera between 1986 and 1990. The 4-inch touchscreen was limited to green and black, but it was still a touchscreen, nonetheless.
The touchscreen display was known as the Graphic Control Center and has been the topic of a lot of various retrospectives on the future-proof 1986 Riviera. While it lacked a lot of the infotainment features that newer vehicles sport today, it did allow you to control the radio, adjust and control the cabin climate, get telematic feedback, as well as system diagnostics for things like engine temperature, fuel, and more. A few other vehicles also featured similar touchscreen displays during that time, such as the Buick Reatta and Oldsmobile Toronado Trofeo. There was Vector’s 1989 W8, which also contained a similar infotainment setup, but the display required using push buttons to navigate instead of simply touching the screen. Nevertheless, it was still cool that so many vehicles from the mid-to-late 1980s featured touchscreen display units.
1998 Lincoln Mark VIII – Dynamic Adaptive Air-Ride Suspension
Air-ride suspension isn’t anything new. It’s been around for more than a century. However, adaptive air-ride suspension systems are more modern, as they dynamically alter the ride height of the vehicle to provide a more comfortable driving experience depending on the road conditions, speed, and damping incurred during travel. Adaptive air-ride suspension systems are highly sought after in today’s luxury vehicles because they can make the ride so much smoother than the usual spring or coil-based suspension systems found in most vehicles.
One vehicle that actually pushed adaptive air-ride suspensions forward into the future much sooner than you may have anticipated was the 1998 Lincoln Mark VIII. Yes, the Lincoln Mark VIII featured a dynamic, electronically controlled adaptive air-ride suspension that could raise and lower based on the driver seat positioning and settings. This design basically made it so that the ride comfort was custom-fitted to the driver. How awesome is that? You can find most newer luxury vehicles with adaptive air-ride suspensions installed that dynamically adjust based on road conditions, but it’s impressive that the Mark VIII was already doing it way back in 1998 and doing it better than a lot of vehicles today.
2005 Volkswagen Phaeton – 18-way Power Driver Seat
Power-driver and power-passenger seats are common luxury items in most vehicles these days. The higher up the price bracket you go, the more likely you are to find that the luxury vehicles have more than just the standard 4-way, 6-way, or 8-way power driver and passenger seats. Most luxury vehicles today, in fact, usually have standard 10-way or 12-way power front seats. But what if I told you that there were luxury vehicles doing 18-way power seats almost two decades ago? Well, it’s true.
The 2005 Volkswagen Phaeton, which is no longer in production, had an 18-way power driver seat and a 16-way power front passenger seat. You could modify everything from the lumbar and height to the angle and headrests. There were lots of different electronically controlled positional vectors to modify, making the Phaeton quite the unique vehicle of its time. It was a full-size luxury sedan that really took luxury seriously. If you were able to find one from online car sales or an auction, you might be surprised at just how many unique and forward-thinking luxury features the Phaeton had.
2012 Mercedes-Benz CLS Quad-Zone Climate Control
You can expect most vehicles these days to have dual-zone climate control. Most luxury vehicles sport tri-zone climate control, but did you know that quad-zone climate control was actually available in vehicles more than a decade ago? In fact, the 2011 Range Rover actually featured quad-zone climate control, but it wasn’t quite as respected or as notable as the quad-zone climate control available in the 2012 Mercedes-Benz CLS.
One thing to keep in mind is that quad-zone climate control is a feature that seems to come and go with various model year outings. In today’s marketplace, if a vehicle has dual-zone climate control, you can probably expect that every subsequent year will also have it or add tri-zone climate control thereafter. However, years ago, the tech advancements weren’t always quite as progressive as they are today. Even still, if you did find yourself in possession of an older model Mercedes-Benz CLS, you might appreciate the luxury comfort provided by the quad-zone climate control for each area of the cabin. It’s quite a feature to have on hand.
2015 Volvo XC90 – Apple Carplay
This probably isn’t too surprising, but the 2015 Volvo XC90 was one of the very first vehicles to ever feature Apple CarPlay. This feature would later become standard on many vehicles years later after being relegated to luxury trims during its first few years out. In fact, the Volvo XC90 was announced to have the innovative new smartphone technology only shortly after Apple unveiled the feature to the general public in the spring of 2014.
The 2015 Volvo XC90’s original concept was actually announced years prior but wasn’t officially unveiled until 2014, which is when Apple CarPlay was announced. The feature was available as part of the new generation XC90, which was revamped from top to bottom. Thus, it made the innovation of Apple CarPlay seem more significant attached to a model year that was designed to take the midsize SUV market by storm.
2015 Hyundai Sonata – Android Auto
Google’s Android Auto connectivity, much like Apple CarPlay, probably seems both old and new at the same time. Google announced the feature a few months after Apple announced the CarPlay feature. Apple’s public announcement came during the spring, and Google’s announcement came during the summer of 2014. It also arrived on the market slightly later than Apple CarPlay. Its first appearance wasn’t actually until the following year, in 2015.
One of the vehicles to make use of Android Auto as a free update was actually the 2015 Hyundai Sonata. If you had been considering an older model year, you could find that the 2015 Sonata does contain this highly prized feature. Whether or not you consider it a luxury feature depends on whether or not you value smart device integration as luxury infotainment. If you don’t? Well, you might be more inclined toward a vehicle with luxury features up your alley. If you do? Well, you can go back as far as the 2015 model year of the Sonata to find Android Auto as a free update.
2016 Lincoln MKX – Massaging Seats
Massaging seats in cars have been around for more than two decades. However, massaging seats, much like 18-way power driver seats, have been extremely rare. In fact, only a few of the top-most luxury brands included massaging seats into their line-up for anything made before 2010. These days, however, you can find a lot more vehicles with massaging seats without having to pay top dollar for a Bentley or a Rolls-Royce.
In fact, you’ll find that some more common production vehicles now sport luxury features such as massaging seats in more recent model years that you can actually get from used dealers or online car sales without having to pay top-dollar prices for them. One such vehicle is the 2016 Lincoln MKX, which surprisingly sports the luxury feature for a price that’s not so out of this world. Massaging seats still isn’t a common feature in most vehicles, but it’s certainly a welcome one when and where you can find it, especially in an older model vehicle of something affordable like the MKX. It’s certainly something to keep an eye on if being massaged during rush hour traffic is something you can’t live without during your daily commutes.